Under national spotlight, Jacksonville state attorney charges George Zimmerman with second degree murder

Legal analysts for every newspaper, television station and blog have one opinion or another on last week’s announcement that 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman will face a second degree murder charge for shooting unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The decision came from Jacksonville’s own Angela Corey, the state attorney for Clay, Duval and Nassau counties who was appointed last month by Gov. Rick Scott to handle the controversial case. Corey has developed a reputation for charging big and this case bears that out. Now, Zimmerman faces up to life in prison, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

Two major questions are dominating discussion as the courtroom phase of this case now begins. First, will the judge find Zimmerman was defending himself under Florida’s broad Stand Your Ground that allows people to use deadly force rather than force them to retreat if they believe their life is in danger? If the judge does, the case is over and Zimmerman walks. But, if the judge denies the Stand Your Ground claim and the case moves forward, the second question arises: Does the state have enough to prove second degree murder? For a second-degree murder criminal charge in Florida, the state must prove that while the killing was not premeditated, Zimmerman’s shooting was an “imminently dangerous act” that showed a “depraved” lack of regard for human life. At this point, the state attorney must also show to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was not acting in self-defense. Second degree murder is often charged when there is some sort of confrontation or fight that leads to a death, which is similar to the facts that have been made public about this case.

A major point will be if the facts give any indication of who the aggressor was: Zimmerman or Martin. Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother is Hispanic, has never denied shooting Martin, but says he was attacked and shot Martin in self-defense. Martin’s family says Zimmerman started the confrontation between he and the black teen. This case is anything but cut and dried, and the state’s burden of proof is high. The Florida criminal defense team will be leaning hard on self-defense and pulling out reasonable doubt – at some point bringing up the school disciplinary record for Martin, who was suspended from school at the time of the incident. Offensive as it may seem to bring up details of a slain teen-ager’s life, there’s little that’s off limits when you are defending a second degree murder charge.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County violent crimes lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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